7 Tips To Prevent Distracted Driving
Often, when we hear the term “distracted driving,” we think of teens on cell phones. And this mental image is not surprising since the majority of crashes involving teenagers revolved around distracted driving and more than 85 percent of today’s teens have a cell phone. It’s a natural conclusion to come to.
But teens and cell phones are not the only cause of distracted driving crashes. In fact, only 14 percent of all fatal distraction-affected crashes in 2016 involved cell phone usage, meaning the majority of distracted driving crashes are from other types of distractions.
More Than Just Cell Phones
Distracted driving is the result of having your attention drawn away from the task of driving and although cell phones are popularly blamed for distraction, they are just one common cause of driver distraction.
The Centers for Disease Control reports there are three main categories of distracted driving:
- Visual (taking your eyes off of the road).
- Manual (letting go of the steering wheel).
- Cognitive (taking your mind off of driving).
They report that sending or reading a text message takes your eyes off of the road for approximately five seconds which, they say, is the equivalent of driving the length of a football field with your eyes closed, at 55 miles per hour. They point out that texting while driving is particularly dangerous because it involves all three of these types of distraction.
Other causes of distraction reported by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration include:
- Other vehicle occupants.
- Moving objects inside vehicle such as “dropped object, moving pet, insect, cargo.”
- Adjusting audio or climate controls such as radio, AC, or heater.
- Adjusting other vehicle controls such as ” headlamps, interior lights, controlling windows, door locks, mirrors, seats, steering wheels, on-board navigational devices.”
- Eating, drinking, or smoking while driving.
- Outside person, event, or object.
Essentially, anything that diverts your attention from driving – whether it be the kids, fatigue, or a soft drink – is considered distracted driving.
7 Steps To Prevent Distraction While Driving
The majority of states in America as well as the District of Columbia have banned texting while driving but not all states have banned cell phone use while driving, in general. Here are some important steps that drivers can take to prevent distractions while on the road.
Before you put the vehicle into gear, make sure you have everything where it needs to be so you don’t have to look around for it while driving. Sunglasses, wallets, purses, backpacks, etc. should be secured, so they don’t fall or move while you’re driving.
If you are using a GPS navigation system, make sure to set it before you begin your trip so you’re focused on getting there, rather than programming the route.
Make sure children and/or pets are secured properly, so they are less likely to cause a distraction inside the vehicle.
Eat before you leave so you won’t feel hungry or eat in the vehicle while driving.
Avoid personal grooming while driving. Make sure you have everything done before you start your trip.
2. Get Enough Rest
Many of today’s drivers are exhausted and driving while drowsy can result in distraction because it reduces “the capacity to pay attention to the driving task.” If you feel tired or are taking medications that may cause drowsiness, don’t get behind the wheel until you’ve gotten enough rest.
3. Control Cell Phone Usage
The safest bet is to entirely disengage from your cell phone. Research has shown that if you’re driving and hear a notification, just hearing the notification can cause enough of a distraction to impair your focus. You can put your phone on “Do Not Disturb” status, Airplane Mode, or simply turn it off to avoid this distraction. You could go even further by putting the phone in the glove compartment to make it in accessible while you’re driving, just to be safe.
Alternatively, there are safe driving apps available for both Android and IOS that range from keeping scores among family members to blocking incoming notifications at a certain speed.
4. Pull Over When Distracted
It takes only a few seconds of a distraction to have disastrous results. If you are distracted by something inside the vehicle, take a moment to pull over safely to deal with the situation.
Even if you are using a hands-free communication device, the act of talking to someone while driving is a distraction. You may think you’re a great multitasker but science has proven that humans do not multitask. Rather, we shift our attention between tasks. So if you’re communicating through hands-free technology, pull over to finish the conversation before getting back on the road.
5. Ask Occupants To Help
While occupants can be distracting, they can also be used to help you stay focused on the road. If you want the radio turned up or down, the heater lowered, or the dog to sit, ask your passengers to mind these details so you can drive safely. Be clear with them that you need to focus on your driving and don’t want to be distracted.
6. Avoid Any Other Activities
Make a personal commitment to keep your eyes vigilant for anything outside the vehicle, and your hands on the wheel. Wait until you are stopped at a stop light or sign before you look at things or focus on someone else inside the vehicle.
7. Practice Defensive Driving
Accidents happen and while you may not be a distracted driver, you may come across one during a commute. Defensive driving means being aware of your surroundings at all times so you can be prepared in the event you meet a distracted driver. Make sure you and any occupants in your vehicle are wearing their seat belts or properly fastened into safety seats.
Not everyone is insured and your rates can increase after an accident, depending on your location and insurance company policies and practices, so practicing defensive driving and avoiding distractions is important not just for safety reasons, but for ensuring your rates don’t increase.
Ultimately, having the privilege of driving a motor vehicle means having responsible driving habits for yourself, passengers, and other drivers. By keeping distractions at a minimum, you reduce the risk of becoming a distracted driver statistic.